Lakewood, NJ – The Sacred Heart Baseball team had a chance to win their third straight NEC Championship, Saturday afternoon, but fell to Bryant, 6-3, at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, New Jersey. SHU and Bryant will play again tomorrow afternoon in a winner-take-all finale for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. The Pioneers are now 34-23 on the season.
Sophomore Jeff Stoddard (Branford, CT) earned the loss for Sacred Heart, allowing six runs in 5.2 innings of work.
Sacred Heart had their chances against Bryant, leaving 13 men on base.
SHU took the 1-0 lead in the third inning. Senior shortstop John Murphy came around to score from second base on a Jesus Medina (New York, NY) chopper that was misplayed by Bryant shortstop Dan Muscatello. Murphy drew a one out walk to reach base.
Bryant rallied to take the lead in the fifth inning off Stoddard. First baseman Robby Rinn started the rally for Bryant, knocking a single to left field. Catcher Jonathan Scott laid down the sacrifice bunt but an errant throw by Stoddard allowed both runners to reach safely, giving Bryant runners on first and second with no one out. Jordan Mountford followed Scott, roping a fastball into right center field to score both Rinn and Scott. A.J Zarozny knocked in the Bulldogs' third run, lifting a sacrifice fly to center field to score Mountford from third base.
Sacred Heart threatened in the sixth but was unable to cut into Bryant's lead. Medina and sophomore Keaton Flint (Charlton, NY) led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Freshman Jayson Sullivan (Charlton, NY) moved them over with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt down the third base line. Bryant would escape trouble, getting a line out from catcher Derick Horn (Valatie, NY) and a strikeout to pinch hitter Rocco Gondek (Glastonbury, CT) to end the inning.
Bryant poured it on with an impressive two out rally in the sixth inning. Five consecutive two out singles yielded three more runs and put Bryant up 6-. Mountford, Zarozny and NEC player of the Year Kevin Brown all notched RBI singles in the inning.
SHU cut into Bryant's lead in the seventh. Dan Perez (Seymour, CT) smacked his second hit of the afternoon to score senior Dave Boisture (Highland Mills, NY) from second base. Sullivan knocked in another run for Sacred Heart, legging out an infeld hit to score freshman Brian Lamboy (Manalapan, NJ), cutting the score to 6-3.
Sacred Heart has not played in an NEC Championship elimination game in three years.
Sacred Heart and Bryant will play once again tomorrow afternoon to see who will go on to the NCAA Tournament. We will have the call live on the Pioneer Sports Network with first pitch slated for 12 pm.